By David L. Brown
In what can only be good news for the issue of climate change, Al Gore and the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are to share the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, it was announced this morning. Climate nay-sayers, predictably, are making disparaging noises as usual.
One of the charges I have seen launched at Gore is that climate change has nothing to do with world peace and that it is a political, not a scientific issue. I must strongly beg to differ. As most knowledgeable scientists believe and as outlined by the IPCC itself, the Earth’s climate is almost certainly in the early stages of what is very likely to become a rapid period of change. There are many ominous signals, such as the rapid meltdown of the Arctic Ice Cap. Formerly cold places are becoming warmer. Formerly warm places may become dryer, or wetter, or merely evolve into unpredictable chaos.
It has already been recognized that drought in Darfur has contributed to the genocide that is going on there. That drought has been demonstrated to be related to climate change. Agricultural failures in places such as Australia have reduced the world food reserves to a few thin weeks. Almost everywhere you look, and especially in the fragile Third World, growing population numbers (and we must always keep in mind that human-caused climate change is a result of too many people using too many resources) is placing unsustainable pressure on land, water, and other necessities for human life. Here in America and other advanced nations, people for the most part are content to continue to pollute the air with greenhouse gas and use up valuable resources for their own present convenience and without regard to the future.
What do all these and many other similar factors add up to? Why, obviously, the possibility of civil uprisings, guerilla attacks, and out-and-out warfare between nations, races, regions and religions. You have only to look at the daily news to see plainly before your eyes that exactly these things are happening almost everywhere you look.
Although differences in political views, economics, religious fervor, and other factors are generally pointed to as causes, at the root of all this strife is almost always the conflict over resources. Climate change will only increase the incentive for war as farm fields dry up, crops wither, water supplies disappear, starving people take up arms against their neighbors, and first world societies including the U.S. continue to attempt to sustain the unsustainable.
In my opinion, shared by many climate scientists, global warming in all its many incarnations is the most significant threat to world peace, not only in some distant future but in the here-and-now.
Yes, Al Gore deserves the Peace Prize and in my mind more so than the IPCC because he has made the effort to reach out to the public with a simple, easy-to-understand message. As the planet spins into what could soon become a death spiral of climate change, peace will be one of the first victims wherever the mark of change appears.